Dermod Travis: B.C. Liberals eschew Bernie Sanders–style grassroots fundraising

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      Mere hours before the New York Times went to press with its look at the B.C. Liberal party's ethical scorecard, the party chose to get its 2016 fundraising results out ahead of the storm.

      It was one last chance at political counterspin and what a marvel of spin it was. U.S. Republican party strategist Karl Rove would have been proud.

      In a statement released last Friday (January 13), the B.C. Liberal party reported that individual donors had outnumbered its corporate donors by a four-to-one margin in 2016, with 9,324 individuals and 1,876 corporations making donations.

      The party may want to check the autocorrect function on its computers, because it seems to have arbitrarily replaced donations with donors.

      It would have been quite the year-to-year jump.

      Just the year before, the Liberals reported 2,084 individual and 1,124 corporate donors giving in excess of $250.

      The 2016 report posted to the party's website on Friday has 15,941 donations, but not from 15,941 unique donors.

      There are 7,582 donations for $100 or less in the 2016 report and 8,359 donations from $100.36 to $200,000.

      Party donations over $100 accounted for $11.7 million of the party's $12.15 million total. Among the donors is the six-figure crowd.

      The party reported 15 six-figure cheques from 11 unique donors totalling $1.7 million, including Dennis–better known as Chip–Wilson, luxury car dealer MCL Motors, Arizona-based RPMG Holdings (ONNI Construction), and Teck Resources.

      Their generosity wasn't limited to the 15 cheques either. Ten of the 11 kicked in another $200,000 in smaller donations.

      Three others–including the New Car Dealers Association of B.C. and the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of B.C.–gave a total of $341,550.

      Effectively, 14 donors gave close to 20 percent of the party's total haul.

      The donations for $100 or less would normally pass by unnoticed, except for the big deal the party made of them just hours before that New York Times article.

      In its statement last week, the party boasted that "Since Christy Clark became party leader, we’ve made a focused effort to grow our base of grassroots donors, including individuals and small businesses."

      The 2016 report includes 7,582 donations–from $5 to $100–totalling $449,384 (for context, Wall Financial gave $403,250 through four companies).

      But what a grassroots crowd it is.

      Canadian Forest Products Ltd. cut a cheque for $84.73. Its total donations came in at $63,285.

      London Drugs made a $98 contribution. The company donated $16,098 to the B.C. Liberals.

      The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers gave $50, as part of its $11,225 total.

      Mercedes-Benz Canada was in for $20 and that was it. Perhaps it made a larger contribution to the B.C. NDP?

      Gateway Casinos and Entertainment made three donations for less than $100 toward its $84,118 contribution.

      Gibsons/Sechelt Coin Laundry gave $100, possibly in loonies and quarters.

      Vancouver lawyer Larry Lien Kuan Yen gave $20 on one occasion and $10,000 on another. Since 2013, Yen has donated $100,802.

      Cabinet ministers and backbench MLAs are also among the "grassroots donors" making contributions of less than $100 toward their annual total, including Rich Coleman and Ralph Sultan.

      One MLA not on the 2016 list? Premier Christy Clark, who hasn't donated to the party since 2012, even though the party has generously donated to her.

      Staff in the premier's office, caucus, and party offices gave $15,500.

      The Secwepemc Reconciliation Framework Agreement donated $4,000.

      The Big 5 Canadian banks donated $47,505, B.C. credit unions gave $45,085, HSBC Bank Canada contributed $5,050, and South Korea's Keb Hana Bank handed over $300.

      To its credit, the B.C. Liberal party posted donors under $250 as well, which it's not required to do under the legislation.

      Among them were the Britannia Mine Museum, the Boundary Family and Individual Services Society, and the Port Theatre Society, all registered charities.

      Recipients of government funding also appear on the list, including Playhouse Child Developments Centre ($210), the Steveston Harbour Authority ($150) and the University of B.C.'s Centre for Drug Research and Development ($250).

      Elections B.C. isn't permitted to review donations under $250 to ensure that they're compliant with B.C. rules.

      The grassroots spin to the party's statement may have seemed the way to go in light of the New York Times article, but when donations under $100 account for less than 3.7 percent of the party's haul and 14 donors nearly 20 percent, you're not really left with a warm and fuzzy grassroots feeling.